The Good, The Bad, The Meh: The ‘Revenge’ Edition

By Michelle Andreani

For the past week or so, my nights have been filled with lies, bazillions of dollars, and ssssssssecrets. Par for the course, you might think, for a bon vivant such as myself. 😉

But not exactly. What I’ve really been doing,  in preparation for the premiere on Sunday (!!!), is powering through the first season of Revenge on Netflix. And HOLY MOLY. What took me so long?????? (Actually, this was the plan since I started losing track of the show a few episodes in. I’d just plug my ears to spoilers until I could binge-watch the entire thing, and then tweet my observations to people who were already like, three months OVER IT.)

I’m now up to episode 19 and I am on board, people. I am a passenger on the Revenge Express. And as wrapped up as I’ve been, I’ll admit there are some scenes where I find my mind wandering. It’s really no secret why: I just find some characters more compelling than others. Which, of course, got me thinking about writing. Continue reading

The LIVE THROUGH THIS Book Trailer and Links to Things You Want!

By Michelle Andreani

Guess what! In less than seven days, Mindi’s newest book LIVE THROUGH THIS will finally be on sale! Hooray! Mindi shared the book trailer earlier this week on her own blog and, because it’s so lovely and captures the novel so perfectly, I’m sharing it here!

(So good, right???)

And since you’re here and all, Mindi has provided links to lots of other fun stuff happening in honor of the LIVE THROUGH THIS release! Including how to follow the blog tour, some early reviews, and info on the launch party. And if you can’t attend the party and still want a signed — even personalized — book, Mindi’s got you covered. She tells you how to do it here.

Want to pre-order LIVE THROUGH THIS the old-fashioned-ish way? It’s your lucky day! Check out the links below and/or try your pretty local bookstore. 🙂

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Happy reading, all!

My Bookshelf, Myself

By Michelle Andreani

While wandering around the internet, I came upon an interesting post over on Nova Ren Suma’s blog (which is consistently interesting, fyi!). Following a prompt by author/bloggess Hilary Smith, Nova posted a photo of her (enviable) unedited bookshelf. (Well, it’s technically a photo of what happened when she ran out of shelf-space, but we book people can totally relate, right?) Inspired by Nova and Hilary, I thought I’d post photos of my own shelves. Here we go!

(Quick note: I cheated! Since my bedroom is super narrow, I couldn’t capture my entire bookshelf in one photo, so you’ll have to piece them together in your mind, Lego-style.)

(Another quick note: You can click on each pic to get a closer look!)

Fun facts:

  • I used to call one of these shelves my “Happy Shelf” (because it sat right above my computer and would sprinkle inspiration on me when I wrote). But then the books that made me happy couldn’t be contained to just one shelf, so the label has been retired. 😉
  • Another shelf has my absolute favorite inscriptions by the authors who signed their books. (Can you guess which?)
  • THESE ARE SO NOT ALL OF MY BOOKS.

Okay . . . judge me. 😉

5 Best-ish Moments: A Non-Committal List

By Michelle Andreani

Following Mindi’s (and Charlie’s) example of listing their 5 Best Moments, I’ve come up with my own! I’m calling my list the 5 Best-ish Moments of My Life. Not that these don’t qualify as Best (no -ish) Moments, because they do! And I’m so very lucky to have them and snuggle with them on the hard days. But it’s just tough to commit sometimes, so this is my way of wiggling out of it. 😉

So, here we go!

The 5 Best-ish Moments of My Life 

December 19, 2004: College Graduation

College was not the most well-spent four years of my life. I mean, I met wonderful friends, took fun classes, and ate an entire Entenmann’s Chocolate Chip Loaf while watching Buffy in my dorm room. So, you know, not a total waste. But I also had zero idea what I wanted to do post-college, and this made caring about my classes a non-issue, and panic attacks a common thing. By senior year I knew-ish that I wanted to write (back then it was for TV), but it was way too late to switch things up (I was already feeling the crushing weight of my student loans). So, I chose a major in the subject where I’d wracked up the most credits, and got the go-ahead to graduate! Happy day!

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October 24, 2001: U2, Elevation Tour, Madison Square Garden

In the fall of 2001, my hometown was unlike anything I’d ever imagined. In the midst of all this, my cousin and I had tickets to see U2 in concert. Now I can’t remember if I was nervous about being in such a big crowd, or how extensively we were searched before we were allowed into MSG. But I do remember how it felt being in that arena, so symbolic of New York City, with people who were feeling what I was feeling. People who knew what it meant to be there, together, healing and singing and screaming and chanting “Let’s Go Yankees” at one point. And mostly I remember the moment when the band played “One,” and a list of names began scrolling. (I still get chills whenever I think about it.)


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Sometime in Seventh Grade: I Refused to Be a Shrew

I’m kind of bummed that I don’t remember the exact date this happened because it most certainly is one of those Big Moments. But in seventh grade, two of my closest friends turned into total harpies. I was considered a “nice girl” and they took this as permission to torture me daily because I probably wouldn’t argue back. IT WAS SO AWFUL. Being humiliated at the hands of two people who were supposed to be on my side. (See also: my trust issues.) But finally (finally, finally, finally), while we were working on group projects in class, I’d had enough. I stood up for myself. I told them not to bother talking to me again, got up from my desk, and left them, jaws dropped. I still remember the “way to go, Michelle” look on a classmate’s face as I did this, and the relief and pride that coursed through me. Nice girls aren’t pushovers, you see. 😉

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October 1-9, 2010: California (Love) Trip

This is sort of a cheat because California was not one but Very Many Best Moments, but, really, why choose? And while I’m chock full of neuroses like any good New Yorker, I’ve always felt like a teeny part of me belonged to California. Which is stupid! I’d never been to California! But I’ve always felt that certain people are drawn to certain places for inexplicable reasons, and California is one of my places. So, obviously, I jumped when I got the chance to go. And it was AMAZING. I ate fish tacos in Laguna Beach! I took surfing lessons in San Diego! I fell in love with Santa Monica, and the tiny cafe near our motel, and with all the newness of California, it still felt a little bit like coming home. (But NYC is cool with it!)

I’m at Sunnydale High!! Xander fell down those steps!

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Mid-2007: A Good Writing Moment

I did a lot of writing after college graduation, but I wasn’t sure if YA novel writing was something I should pursue as more than a hobby. So, I decided to take an online writing class through MediaBistro and let me tell you, it was TERRIFYING. There were so many talented writers and, along with them, so many great ideas for their books. Better than me and mine, for sure! Still, I was learning so much that each compliment and criticism felt like money in the bank. In that class my instructor and classmates made me believe a writing career could happen. For me! For real! I remember pulling a coat from my closet and reflecting on the class when I thought how this was an incredible overlap of something I loved to do and something I could do. How rarely that happens. And it’s a feeling I pull up on the hardest of writing days, one that’ll stick with me no matter where my career goes (or doesn’t go!).

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So, these are my moments. *hugs moments* You can tell me your (tentative) list now . . . I won’t hold you to it. 😉

Reader Behaving Badly

by Michelle Andreani

The other day, on Twitter, I had a short conversation with a lovely writer/reader. She’d confessed to skipping ahead in her book to see what was going to happen, and I assured her I’ve done it too. Because (NO REGRETS) I have! In fact, I’d just told Mindi earlier that week that I’d skimmed the last few pages of Jenny Han’s WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER before I was halfway through the book.

I had to. 

I was so invested, SO NERVOUS, that I could not go on without knowing how it all ended. (And that’s a risk in and of itself, because if it didn’t turn out as I wanted, could I even continue on??) It’s not the first book I’ve skipped ahead on, and it certainly won’t be the last. It’s just that sometimes I need a guarantee that everything’s going to be okay. And that You-Know-Who and You-Know-Who will be 4-eva in love.

No denial here; it’s a Bad Reading Habit. Thankfully, it’s not one I give into too often. (And not to pat myself on the back, but I totally resisted skipping ahead this week while reading Kendare Blake’s GIRL OF NIGHTMARES — and I’m so glad I did.) (PS: Cas and Anna 4-eva.)

But, sadly, I have another Bad Reading Habit and it’s wayyyyyyy worse. Plus it’s such a weird one, you guys. It’s the long-lost cousin of the Did-Not-Finish, because while it resembles DNF, it is so much less . . . sensible.

See, I’ll be completely sucked into a novel, enjoying the world, loving the characters, and life is goooooood. But when things start looking sketchy, and the book’s climax approaches, I STOP READING. I put the book down! Even though I’m dying to know how the story turns out, I’m too nervous or concerned or scared to see these characters through their tough times. Their tough times become my tough times and it’s too much!

Only Joey Tribbiani can possibly understand!

 

The good news is that, unlike the DNF, I do go back into that world. I pick up the book, remove the CVS receipt I’ve been using as a bookmark, and make sure the characters make it through to the other end. I don’t give up completely; I just needed the break.

So, yep, I sometimes behave badly while I’m reading. And I wonder if authors would find that obnoxious; that I read their last lines too early, or step away from their book to regroup. But it’s only because I’m so in love with the author’s story, their characters, and how it all turns out. I want these people they’ve created to be happy. And that’s gotta be a little flattering, right? 🙂

Joey and I can’t be the only ones . . . Tell me your Bad Reading Habits! Solidarity!

The Fine Art of Procrastination

By Michelle Andreani

You may hear people say that publishing is a slow business; and it is, in its own way. Writing a book, it seems, can also be a slow business — unless you’re one of those writers who can whip up a first draft in two weeks, in which case I’m convinced you drank from an iffy public fountain at a young age and now you don’t have wholly human blood flowing through your veins. Seriously, get tested!

Oh, I kid. Out of envy, you see!

Because I write sloooooooowly. It’s my one problem as a writer — hahahaha. I mixed up those words. It’s one OF my problems as a writer, my inability to turn off the inner-editor, to writewritewrite without worrying if it’s all good enough. To be stunted by this fear. It’s frustrating and often paralyzing when you’re so anxious to spill out a story, and all that’s staring you in the face is this:

Shut up, blinking cursor!

Terrifying. Who wants to deal with that? Today of all days?? You, neither? Excellent! We’ll be much clearer-headed tomorrow, anyway, right?!

SIDEBAR: There are a ton of ways to procrastinate, like reading books and social networking and watching The Social Network and jumping every time your email dings, even though you know it’s just another Groupon for 83% off laser hair removal. Those are typical tools for avoiding work, but sometimes you need a little variety. And that’s what I’m here for! Not that you should follow my lead or consider this a guide. Oh, no.

I certainly do not condone procrastination. *smiles at Mindi*

That said, let’s procrastinate!

1.) We Should Definitely Browse Goodreads: It’s not really wasting time if you’re looking for another book to read! And you’re making an author happy by adding their book to your To-Read list, so yay! But beware: Goodreads is not without danger. You’re bound to stumble upon a book that sounds eerily like the one you’re writing but waaaaaay better. Then your resulting misery will be compounded by the fact that you’re procrastinating while this person wrote your book faster (and better), NOT THAT I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE.

2.) Wanna Start a Lip Balm Collection?:

3.) Try to Remember the Title of that Book You Read Like 5 Years Ago, the One with that Girl Character in It . . . Ugh! What Was It Called?! It Was The Same Summer You Read Where the Heart Is. Come On! Remember! Do You Really Want to Die Before You Remember?!: YA novel, probably pubbed between 2006-2009, redhead main character, mean girl named Sterling. Time worth wasting until I puzzle this one out, I say!

4.) Utilize This Gif in Every Way Possible:

5.) Let’s Go Outside for a Bit. It’s Summer!Yes, of course, getting the mail counts. Now, go!

6.) A List is Not a List Without Pinterest: Everyone loves Pinterest! And for good reason — that place is rife with inspiration. (I even have my own Cloudy board.) But Pinterest is possibly even more dangerous than Goodreads, because it’s basically a time-suck in research’s clothing. You may think you’re going in there to find the exact shade of Cloudy’s hair color, but you come out feeling hungry and kind of poor and — oh, Pinterest, I can’t stay mad at you! Now show me your kickass fat-free enchilada recipes.

By now you’ve probably realized that this blog post is 7.) Write a Blog Post About Procrastinating, I Mean, That’s Workish. And you’re right, you clever thing! So, it’s for the best if we end this, part ways for now, and get back to work, whatever that may be for you today.

I know. Sigh sigh sigh. It was fun wasting time with you.

Ooohh, but wait!

8.) Dance with Me! To This! For As Long As It Takes!:

The Book That Did It

By Michelle Andreani

I always love hearing about that moment when a book changed someone’s life. The book that made them a lifelong reader, the book that made them a fantasy-lover, or what I’m babbling about today, the book that really made them want to write. Basically: the Book that Did It.

I was, maybe not-so surprisingly, a big reader as a kid. (Although, from the looks of the bookshelves in my parents’ basement, I may have liked having books more than reading them. A hoarder-in-training red flag, for sure.) But, anyway, that was some quality time with Amelia Bedelia and the Babysitter’s Club. Then: a black cloud! I went through a lot of my early teens without really picking up a novel for fun. Tragedy! Outrage! Fire Alarms! But, you see:

Reading books = A School Thing = Billy Budd = UUGGHHH²

I really hated reading Billy Budd, you guys.

Eventually, I dragged myself out of this horrible, mucky, reading-less black hole. (I give partial credit to the Fearless and Everworld series for this, by the way. GOOD TIMES.) Those books did me a real solid, but neither series Did It. And then, something bigger happened: Teen People (RIP) started a book club called, not unexpectedly, The Teen People Book Club!!!

Look! Still have one! I swear I’m not a hoarder.

It was like an entire YA section delivered to my house! So, I basically lost my mind and what little money I had on books like The Princess Diaries, Hard Love, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. All of them awesome, but none of them Did It, either.

In the end, I met The One in the local library (yay, libraries!!), totally unaware that bringing it home, cracking it open, would (as unforgivably cheesy as it sounds) change everything. So, finally, the Book that Did It for me? *trumpets* *fanfare*  This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen!

I am all kinds of unable to talk about this book or Sarah Dessen without turning into a total gush-monster. Soooo, deep breath and here we go: This Lullaby was the first book I remember reading slowly, on purpose, so that I could maybe trick it into never ending. It was a book that wrapped me up and didn’t let go, with characters I wanted to be friends with, boys I wanted to date, places I wanted to go. (Bendo. Someone take me to Bendo.) It felt like I was living through that summer with Remy and Dexter, singing about potatoes, drinking extra-large Zip Diets, and hating Spinnerbait(!). I loved every word, every page.

Because of all that, it was the first book that lit me up from the inside; that made me say, I want to write like this. To be this good, and have other people feel about my book the way I feel about this one. It was the first book that made this so clear. A special book can Do That.

So, I promptly sat down at my computer and started writing a book EXACTLY LIKE IT. Like, not even kidding, exactly like it. (The learning about writing and characters and plot came a little later.)

Since then, other books have certainly come along and Done It for me. But nothing can ever touch This Lullaby‘s reserved cubbyhole in my heart. Or its space on my bookshelf.

I really, really swear I’m not a hoarder.

You must have a book that Did It for you. Tell me tell me tell me! 🙂

Cloudy Snippet #1: Meet Cloudy!

Mindi and I thought it would be fun to post little snippets of our WIP as we go along. So, this is a little sneak peek at Cloudy. (Eeep!) Hope you like her! (Eeep!) 🙂

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Here’s the thing about me wanting to kick Jacob Tamsin’s metaphorical ass at the pancake breakfast: I’m not allowed to leave the syrup station.
Unsupervised squeeze bottles of free sugar are basically irresistible, and how embarrassing for you to have gotten diabetes from a cheerleading fundraiser. So I’m supposed to stay put.
But stupid Jenna won’t stop crying.
“There she goes again.”
This comes from Lita, which is unsurprising because she’s been wearing that smile, that there-Cloudy-goes-again smile, since she found Jenna teary and deflated in a bathroom stall and skipped across the gym to tell me about it.
“I’m not going anywhere again,” I say, pushing away from the table. Staring laser beams of fury at Jacob has stopped being satisfying, so the next logical step is to hurtle myself at his over-sized, empty head. “We’re just going to have a nice talk. And he might cry, but it won’t be because I bend his fingers all the way back.”

She’s Got the Look(s)!

By Michelle Andreani

Whenever it comes to describing what my main characters look like, I always clam up a bit. Maybe it’s because I write in first person, so I’m basically living in their heads, and it all feels a little like describing my own appearance. (Which, ugh, am I right?) But moving past that, it’s also one of the funnest parts of dreaming up a character. This person you created can have a face! Any face! And curly hair or pink hair or no hair!

Normally, I have a pretty good sense of what my character looks like from the start, and it was no different for Cloudy. I knew she was an interesting shade of blonde, that she was petite but not under 5’4, and that she had the face of someone you almost want to punch. Almost. Which, you know, sounds like a good foundation for a human being. But since Mindi would also need to envision Cloudy, we figured something more specific was in order.

I Google Imaged my heart out, eventually finding that I wasn’t really happy with any of the potential Cloudys. It was all very frustrating until I remembered that I might already have one at my disposal. . .

I’d saved this photo years ago, assigning her to another character I was writing at the time. Aside from the guilt I felt at stealing said character’s identity, I knew the girl in this photo had a distinct Cloudy-ness to her.

I wish I knew who this real girl is! If you do, share? 🙂
Photo credit: Elle Girl Magazine

See?! This is just the kind of photograph someone would take of Cloudy. (Maybe at a party where there are old birdcages and free-range oranges?) She’s got that look in her eye, that I-dare-you-to-mess-with-me look; that I-am-untouchably-cool-in-a-rocking-chair quality. Which is so utterly Cloudy, you guys, you don’t even know.

Unfortunately, her hair color isn’t exactly that shade I’d imagined. And her eyes might be the perfect shade of Cloudy, but, well, I can’t see them too clearly. After a little random searching on Pinterest, I found something close to what I was looking for:

 

The caramel-y blonde of Brigitte Bardot’s hair was definitely getting warmer. And the girl on the right? Her dark blue eyes were pretty much exactly what I was looking for! High five, Pinterest!

Of course, it can be hard work to Frankenstein these actual human beings into resembling your imaginary character. Those are the times when you have to take matters into your own hands by picking up your Wii remote. (That We Cheer 2! Always helping with the research.) So, I made my very own Cloudy, as best I could.

Look at her, all smiley! But I don’t really get the white streaks in her hair — the game decided to add those in. Hmm. Does it think Cloudy’s stressed?

Why would it think that? . . . 😉

ETA: GUESS WHAT EVERYONE? The lovely model in the chair is: Devynne Scilingo! Thanks to Catfish: The TV Show for inadvertently solving my troubles, along with being totally gripping. High five!

These Are My Confessions. Not the Usher Kind. (The Writey Kind.)

By Michelle Andreani

So, remember when Mindi wrote that fun post about listening to music to help channel her characters? And you know how lots of authors say they like writing to music? That some even create their own playlists for their books?

Confession #1: It all makes me very jealous.

Confession #2: Because I can’t really write to music.

I know! What a burden to bear, feeling so different. Like being the only person you know who’s never been to Disney World. (Confession #3.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love the connection between writing and music. There have been many times I’ve listened to a song and thought: “CHARACTER THEME SONG!” And those songs are always fun for dance breaks in between writing. (Excellent caffeine substitute, btw. Lately, it’s been this for me. You may borrow it.) But for the times when I’m actually writing, it just doesn’t work. (Maybe I’m not listening to the lyrics? Or maybe I’m listening too much? FRUSTRATED!)

Whatever the reason, I’ve found I’m most happy with the authenticity of my character’s voice when (Confession #4) I write to TV shows.

Does that sound weird?

It certainly doesn’t sound as cool and artsy as writing to music, so there’s that, is something you might be thinking.

Okay, true! But allow me to explain. You can’t just choose your TV-shows-to-write-to all willy-nilly, so that’s why there’s a method. A fun method, even. (Fine, fun-ish.) You’ve got to play matchmaker. And your goal? True Character/TV Love.

For instance: When I was spending my days on a previous WIP, I wrote to one of my faves, Gilmore Girls.

So much bouncy energy, right? And you see, my main character was kind of a babbling, awkward (and hopefully endearing) mess of a girl. I knew the rhythm of her voice so well — it was snappy and kind of non-stop. So, listening to Gilmore Girls, with its own insane and rapid-fire flow, helped me settle into her head even more. (Plus it made me smile, which came in handy when the writing DID NOT.)

Character/TV Compatibility: Perfect Match!

Now that I’m in Cloudy’s head, and she’s a different kind of gal, I can’t very well write to Gilmore Girls. (See? Method!) Instead, I wanted something with more bite, something a little feistier. So, I’ve been running episodes of my beloved Veronica Mars on loop. In case you’re not familiar (and oh goodness, I can’t even think about that, get thee to Netflix post-haste!):

Oof, that scene. ANYWAY. While I’m still getting comfy with Cloudy’s voice, Veronica Mars has the tone I’m liking for her. There’s a sharpness, a toughness to the characters, but they’re also spectacularly vulnerable, and it all comes across onscreen and in the dialogue. That’s what I hope for in Cloudy.

Character/TV Compatibility: TBD. But the outlook is good!

So, I’m not totally out of line, right? I mean, I’ll admit that cueing up TheWB.com isn’t as romantic-sounding as clicking play on the perfect song. And I’ll also admit that writing to TV can be dangerous:

Beware: Your cat may try to sabotage your efforts by breaking your Gilmore Girls DVD set.

But when it comes to your character, I’m all for doing what works best for you – music, TV, silence, whatever! It’s just lucky that what’s been working for me is spending quality time with Logan Echolls. 😉